Southern California –– A multiracial group of students and teachers woke our community college with a rally supporting the ‘Jena 6’ and opposing the criminalization of youth in California and nationwide. It was the first public event organized by a new campus club.
Students took turns speaking on the bullhorn for the first time, while others held signs, collected surveys and passed out leaflets all over the campus. Students eagerly took the leaflets, which exposed the racist treatment of youth (especially black and Latin) in court and prison systems. For example, 16-year-old Jena defendant Mychal Bell was originally tried as an adult.
He was one of over 7,000 youths confined to adult prisons every year, of whom 3/4 are black and Latin. In California, black and Latin youth are over three times as likely to be tried in adult court as white youth. This attack leads to greater criminalization of all working-class youth.
One speaker at the rally related these issues to problems on the campus, where cops routinely hassle groups of black students who are just hanging out after class. Now we are spied on by new “Homeland Security” cameras. The cops recently called a teacher to warn that a “young Latino man with baggy pants and a shaved head was just seen on camera entering your building.” The teacher replied, “He’s one of our students!”
Like many campuses, this one has a large “criminal justice” department that trains future racist cops and prison guards and regularly holds “law enforcement career fairs.”
“The schools aren’t educating kids,” said a student organizer, “so they get caught up in things and don’t see any options. Then they’re told to go into the military to learn some discipline.” She added, “It’s a result of capitalism — everything is connected.” She and several other CHALLENGE readers are forming a study group and plan to invite others to join them.